The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs kick off tonight with the 2021 Cook Out Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Read on below to see my prediction for who will win the race, as well as my top 10, dark horse, and driver to fade predictions.
Winner: Kyle Larson- Larson has had an unbelievable 2021, with 5 wins and 14 top 5 finishes on the year. Larson has raced as well as you can at Darlington without a win, with back to back runner-up finishes, 4 top 5’s, 6 top 10’s, and 500 laps led in 7 career starts. Larson has been the man to beat each and every week and I predict he will start off the playoffs in a big way by winning the Cook Out Southern 500!
Top 10: William Byron- Byron has put together a solid 2021 campaign, with a win, 9 top 5’s, and 16 top 10’s. Although Byron has gone a bit cold of late, with just 2 top 10’s in his last 8 starts, he has found recent success at Darlington, where he has had 2 consecutive top 5 showings. Byron has no problem running right against the wall, as proven by his win at Homestead-Miami Speedway earlier this season. Willy B is a lock for a top 10 tonight.
Dark Horse: Ryan Newman- Although 2021 has been a struggle for Ryan Newman, he brings momentum into Darlington after a 3rd place showing at Daytona last week. Newman has fared well at Darlington in recent years, with 4 straight top 15 showings and 9 top 15’s in his last 11 starts here, including 5 top 10’s in that stretch. Newman has had 5 top 10’s this season, including a 7th place showing at Homestead-Miami and a 10th place result in the spring Darlington race. Newman has raced well this year at tracks that allow you to run right up against the wall and I expect him to utilize that strategy tonight to bring home another top 15 finish.
Driver to Fade: Corey LaJoie- The Lady in Black has not been kind to LaJoie in his career, as he has never had a top 20 here in 7 starts, with 3 finishes of 30th or worst during that stretch. The Cinderella Story late in the going at Daytona last week, LaJoie will struggle tonight and finish outside the top 20 for the 8th straight time at Darlington.